November 9, 2010 at 3:59 PM (Assignments) (charity, charity: water, Facebook, Hugh Jackman, nonprofits, raising funds, Scott Harrison, social media, The Citizens Foundation, transparency, Tumblr, Twestival, Twitter, Web 2.0)
Back home in Pakistan, I volunteered at The Citizens Foundation, a non-profit organization striving to increase the level of quality education among the less-privileged in the country.
In the fifteen years since it has been established, TCF has set up over 660 school units all over Pakistan, striving to make the youth “agents of positive change.” This education program is funded entirely with donations from various institutions, corporations and individual contributors. While TCF is present on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and has already improved the lives of thousands of households, I feel it can do more if social media was utilized more effectively to raise awareness and attract donations. Its Facebook page, for instance, is dull and has not even been able to attract 12,000 followers (even though TCF is one of the most well-known charities in Pakistan.)
Non-profits and charities in the West are quickly recognizing the web as a critical platform for spreading brand awareness, fundraising, and getting to know and interacting with their various audiences. According to a Forbes magazine survey, 65% of the largest American charities are blogging while 42% consider the use of social media strategies to meet their objectives.
Take charity: water for example.
Charity: water is a non-profit organization dedicated to distributing clean drinking water in developing nations. Founded by Scott Harrison in 2006, charity: water has to date raised over $ 20 million to fund almost 3,200 water projects in third world countries.
The idea came on Harrison’s 31st birthday party when he invited his friends and family to a party – and asked them to bring him money for clean water instead of presents. The $ 15,000 collected was used to provide water in Uganda. The next year, along with his own birthday, Harrison invited others with September birthdays to join the movement ask for donations instead of gifts so that clean water can be made available in Kenya. This is how the annual September campaign started. In 2010, people born in any month of the year were encouraged via the website to give up their birthday gifts to change the world.
The organization has established a strong presence on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr to interact with large online communities, spread its message and build lasting relationships. Charity: water also has an interactive website that monitors the progress it has made so far in terms of funds raised, water projects completed, people served and members that have joined it. Using a blog called the charity: water log, stories from the field are shared and photographs are posted showing communities that suffer from lack of clean water.
Last February, charity: water received funds collected by Twestival, a social media fundraising initiative by Twitter
that drove together Twitter followers from in over 200 cities around the world to raise awareness and funds for the cause. The 2009 Twestival raised $ 250,000 to drill wells in Ethiopia and provided safe water to over 17,000 people. Videos from the well-digging process in Africa were posted online to show the Twitter community how their money was alleviating the global water crisis.
In April 2009, Hugh Jackman promised a donation of AUD 100,000 to any charity that could use Twitter to convince him that its cause needed the funds. Harrison secured half the amount for charity: water by tweeting a link to a photograph of African children holding up a sign that said, “Dear Mr. Hugh Jackman, thank you for helping us!”
Charity: water has also strategically used the internet to communicate the transparency of its operations by promoting its 100% model. The website promises all donors, whether small or big, that 100% of public donations are used for its water projects. Photographs and videos from the field prove that every dollar donated is spent towards providing clean water. By entering GPS coordinates of a particular site, donors can view water projects on Google Maps after they are completed. So committed is the organization to donate 100% funds, that it pays the Paypal and credit card transaction fee itself for all online donations.
I found out about charity: water as I was researching for this blog, and I must say I am inspired. So many people are taking up such selfless initiatives for the global community, and spreading the joy of helping others. I hope when I return to Pakistan, I am able to think up a similar Web 2.0 strategy for The Citizens Foundation and capitalize on the strength of the burgeoning online communities to provide quality education to the Pakistani youth.